Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

“What we did last year was a trailer,” said Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. during spring training in 2022. “Now, you guys are going to see the movie.”

Two years later, that movie is stuck in development hell. Every passing day is one closer to it being completely shelved. Even in an upside-down year for the hard-hitting AL East in 2023, the Blue Jays only managed a Wild Card. Adding insult to injury, manager John Schneider’s awful decision-making cost them Game 2 and ended their season in Minnesota.

The offseason has provided little hope for the future. The Blue Jays weren’t completely out of the offseason game, but didn’t really improve the roster. President Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins only made a series of lateral moves. No one decision was so significant that it changed Toronto’s fortunes heading into the new campaign.

Thus, the Blue Jays are hoping the third time is the charm. They’ll run it back with last year’s roster and rotation, give or take a few players, and hope it’s their turn to overachieve, a la Baltimore in 2023.

Greatest Addition: Justin Turner. Now 39, Justin Turner is nearing the end of his career and will play until he literally cannot anymore. The veteran infielder spent last year with the Boston Red Sox and hit .276 with 23 home runs and 93 RBI. His whiff rate was in the 91st percentile.

Turner isn’t the difference-maker on a Blue Jays team in the hunt for a championship. He is, however, a respected and much-needed voice of leadership in the lineup. He spent nine of his 15 MLB seasons with the Dodgers and knows what’s required of regular World Series contenders. Turner even won a ring with Los Angeles in the shortened 2020 season.

In Toronto, look for him to be the primary DH and quickly determine what’s keeping the Blue Jays from taking that big step forward.

Greatest Loss: Matt Chapman. If there’s a modern day Brooks Robinson, it’s Chapman. He has a +92 defensive runs saved (DRS) at third base for his career along with +53 outs above average (OAA). The downside is he’s a streaky hitter who hit .240 with 17 home runs and a 110 wRC+, and hit a paltry .205 in the second half compared to .259 before the All-Star Break. Chapman also hit just five home runs with 15 RBI over that stretch.

That still didn’t stop the San Francisco Giants, who recently signed Chapman to a three-year deal worth $54 million. Maybe hitting coach Pat Burrell can unlock something and get the two-time Platinum Glover back in form.

Greatest Strength: Pete Walker. It’s rare that a pitching coach who sticks around for the long haul. Most stay with one team for a few years before being let go or moving on to a better opportunity. But not Walker, who’s been with the Blue Jays since 2012 and currently on his fourth manager in Schneider.

But what really makes Walker stand out as a coach is his ability to succeed without much youth. The youngest player to make a start for Toronto in 2023 was 29-year-old Jose Berríos. All other pitchers who started a game for the Jays were over 30.

And yet, with the odds stacked against them, the Blue Jays ranked fourth in ERA last year with a 3.78 mark. Given that, why hasn’t Walker been promoted to manager?

Greatest Weakness: Failure to communicate. What’s frustrating about these Blue Jays struggles is that Shapiro is a highly competent executive. He had a hand in the Cleveland then-Indians turning things around in the ’90s and later served as their president himself. During his Cleveland tenure, Shapiro developed a reputation (perhaps a talent) for developing strong young pitchers out of thin air.

Unfortunately for Shapiro, his pitching scouting prowess has not followed him north of the border. Former first-round pick Nate Pearson is a bust. Alek Manoah went from third in Cy Young voting in 2022 to a 5.87 ERA the following year, and a 21.60 mark in 2024 spring training. Top prospect Ricky Tiedemann has promise, but only 122.2 minor league innings in two years.

Toronto’s next best pitching prospect, Brandon Barriera, is at least two years away. Unless the Jays catch pitching lightning in a bottle, they’ll continue to rely too heavily on their bats.

Will the Blue Jays progress or regress in 2024? If this Blue Jays squad is a movie, it’s almost certainly Heaven’s Gate. Maybe Waterworld. Some may go so far as to put it in the same league with Ben-and-J-Lo mafia schlockfest Gigli.

Whatever your choice of bad movie reference, the Toronto Blue Jays can look forward to being an AL East bridesmaid once again in 2024. The pitching hasn’t improved enough to keep up. Isiah Kiner-Falefa doesn’t even come close to adequately replacing Chapman at third.

Oh, and not to spook any Toronto fans reading this, but both Guerrero and shortstop Bo Bichette are free agents after next season.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.